First-generation student finds success with help from WSU resources

  • A first-generation student will graduate with a degree in social work. 
  • She had scholarship and academic assistance from different resources at WSU. 
  • She will be the first in her family to graduate and is striving for the master's program.

Sandra Sanchez, is a first-generation undergraduate student at Wichita State University. She will graduate in May with a Bachelor of Social Work degree and an undergraduate certificate. It was a big decision for Sandra to consider going to Wichita State. There was a lot to think about in attempting to be the first in her family to get a college degree.

“When I researched going to Wichita State, I thought there was more information for first-generation students compared to other universities,” Sanchez said. “I saw a lot of emphasizing of first-generation students graduating and there were a lot of resources, so that was the main push that I saw in why coming to Wichita State was important.”

Coming to WSU was a big deal for Sandra, and one of the most important aspects of her decision and pursuit of her bachelor’s degree was financial aid. She is a recipient of the Osher Reentry Scholarship and wishes more students knew about the scholarship.

I think being a first-generation student and bilingual will help me be able to help others and advocate for a lot of other students, family members or clients.
Sandra Sanchez

“My goal is to hopefully guide somebody and help them out, and maybe one day offer a scholarship for social work students,” she said. “I think it would be encouraging for a first-generation student in this field.”

Sandra has also been involved with the Student Organization of Social Work (SOSW), which was a key component to her success as a student in the program.

“I always told myself I wanted to be involved in school, so I found the student organization of social work and that helped me find other peers and get to know more about the program,” Sandra said. “I joined my first year and then the second year, I decided I wanted to try for a leadership role. So I ran for president and was elected for a year.”

The WSU social work program and the SOSW have strengthened the relationship she has to the field.

“I think being a leader for the SOSW has helped me be able to advocate for other students who may not always feel comfortable,” Sanchez said. “If we go as a team that strengthens us.”
Sandra learned that getting the resources she needed to be a successful student weren’t far from reach. She realized that one of the most important things she learned was to ask questions.

“I think it’s important to build those connections,” Sanchez said. “LAS Advising is really good. Sometimes I won’t know something, but they will guide me to the right person, and the same thing for the Office of Financial Aid. It’s important for students to ask those questions because others might have the same questions as you do.”

Sandra’s passion for social work stems from personal experiences and her own goals to help others. This program has allowed her to better understand what it means to her.

“When I go back and think about why I chose social work, and a lot of my classmates, is that we have the desire and drive to help people,” Sanchez said. “I think that’s why I’m so determined to be a social worker. I think being a first-generation student and bilingual will help me be able to help others and advocate for a lot of other students, family members or clients.”

The social work program and her connections with fellow students have affected Sandra’s life and have given her what she needs to be a social worker.

“I think this program helps students be successful, whether they go on to the master’s program or not,” Sandra said. “It’s very hands on, you learn from your practicum, instructors, peer conversations, and from every case with your clients.”

Sandra says she always remembers the most important reason she decided to return to school and pursue her degree.

“At the end of the day I just want to make my family proud,” Sandra said. “Truly, I’m doing it for them, not for me. I want my siblings to follow my footsteps and graduate.”